CHICAGO -- It's too much. It's all just too much. Amid angry clashes in the name of social justice, biblical floods and North Korean missile tests, we all need to get our minds off things.
Might I suggest binge-listening to fun podcasts?
I'm a huge fan of the medium and though I've been listening to podcasts for 10 years now, it hasn't been until the last six months that I've really revved up my consumption. My podcast feed currently features 26 different shows, and though I wanted to cram a plug for every one of them into this limited space, for these troubled times, I've picked out just a few.
This means I have to leave out my daily and weekly go-to journalism shows ("On the Media," The New York Times' "The Daily," The Wall Street Journal's "What's News," "It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders" and The Columbia Journalism Review's "The Kicker"). And I have to settle for merely name-dropping my favorite interview shows (the absolutely marvelous "Bullseye" and "The Turnaround," both with Jesse Thorn, the "Longform Podcast" and Katie Couric show.)
Lastly, I can't include my required-listening shows for Hispanic topics (the politically themed "In the Thick" and the "Latino USA" news hour) or my super wonky listens (the policy-driven "Freakonomics Radio," the techy "Note to Self" and Malcolm Gladwell's absolutely priceless "Revisionist History") -- they're all so, so worth your time. But today I want to focus on fun.
Yes, fun. We need a whole lot more of it. Type these titles into any smartphone app for podcasts or into any search engine to listen online -- completely free -- and prepare to smile, laugh and be heartened.
"The Sporkful," hosted by Dan Pashman, is "Not for foodies, it's for eaters." Listen to this show if you have about a half an hour, love to eat and want to learn things like how to pack beach snacks so that your noshing will be enhanced by the smell and taste of saltwater. Also if you want to debate whether your morning cereal is actually soup.
"The New Yorker Radio Hour," hosted by the storied magazine's editor David Remnick, is a collection of funny stories, famous musicians talking about their craft and noodling on their instruments and other priceless art. Some shows are heavy -- the Syrian war crimes episode was tough -- but there's plenty of joy. Don't miss author Sherman Alexie beautifully reading his newest short story "Clean, Cleaner, Cleanest."
"Judge John Hodgman," hosted by the eponymous comic author and his bailiff Jesse Thorn, is what you want to listen to when you want some harmless craziness. Should a pepperoni-pizza loving boyfriend stop rummaging through restaurant trash for free pizza coupons in order to save his relationship? Is "car lag" when traveling across the country a real malady? When your beloved pet dies, should you mount and display its skeleton in your home, in loving memory? Only one man can decide, and if this man teaches you nothing else about living right, you'll at least learn that "specificity is the soul of narrative."
"Pop Culture Happy Hour," a weekly roundtable discussion of books, movies, TV shows and music, will keep you up-to-date on what's what in pop culture. Last week's thoughtful confab led me to hijack my family's Saturday afternoon to go see the new Steven Soderbergh heist comedy, "Logan Lucky," which was the best two hours I've spent in a movie theater in a very long time.
"Tell Me Something I Don't Know," hosted by journalist and author Stephen J. Dubner, is a game show for the kinds of super geeks who, off the top of their heads, would know what ambergris is or could tell you about how the United States' Ghost Army helped defeat Hitler. Not only will you laugh, but your IQ will go up 10 points every time you listen.
Lastly, a new show: "What's Good With Stretch and Bobbito." Apparently, Adrian "Stretch Armstrong" Bartos and Robert "Bobbito" Garcia are legendary hip-hop experts from way back. I know zero about hip-hop -- but it doesn't matter. These guys are so warm, their voices envelop you as they guide you through smart conversations about "untold stories and uncovered truths," culture, religion and music of all sorts with guests like Stevie Wonder, Dave Chappelle and Eddie Huang.
Bartos recently described listening to The Beatles' "The Word" through a concert hall sound system: "It was like going to church." Guaranteed to make you beam.
Esther Cepeda's email address is email@example.com.
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